Guess who’s making a point of keeping up with the Kardashians now: Anna Wintour. Maybe you don’t need to guess. Maybe you were also walking down the street checking out what people are wearing as spring gamely tries to supersede winter when a certain magazine cover on a nearby newsstand caught your eye.
There you were face to face with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West embracing on the front of Anna Wintour’s revered monthly, and you couldn’t take your eyes from it or the banner headline proclaiming:
Kim & Kanye
Their Fashionable Life
And Surreal Times
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it just a few years ago that Anna Wintour and “Kimye” were in the news because the former wasn’t keen on inviting the latter to her annual Metropolitan Museum bash? It wasn’t May 2013 when they went uninvited, because they were there for that one—and well photographed—as Kardashian, quite pregnant with the soon-to-be North West, and longtime music whiz West climbed the Met steps.
Their presence clearly indicated that Wintour had thawed, but few might have predicted that Kardashian and West would be given the magazine’s pride of place within the year—would be photographed by high-class shutterbug Annie Leibowitz for the honor.
Right about now I want to make it clear that this is not a column about the Kardashians or those connected to them by marriage or impending nuptials. They get enough publicity. They get so much publicity that a month or two ago when Kardashian replaced her longtime publicist, she got publicity for firing her publicist. You can’t do much better than that in the publicity department.
No, this is a column about Vogue and Anna Wintour and what the April issue implies. For don’t you know, Wintour put her entire first-rank team on the Kardashian-West case. Aside from Leibowitz, she had creative director Grace Coddington arrange the wedding gowns and sent international editor at large Hamish Bowles to spend a few days with the subjects, including time in Paris, because, as Kardashian says, “People don’t hound us here.”
(She doesn’t add that if she didn’t make a career of so assiduously courting the press, people might not hound her anywhere. They might actually lose their interest in keeping up with her, but surely that’s not what she, or mom Kris Jenner, wants.)
For the Vogue spread, Leibowitz snaps some pretty pictures with the good-looking Kardashian looking quite good in bride’s duds from Alber Elbaz and other top-flight couturiers. (Not Vera Wang, though. Too obvious?) One of the snaps has West bending Kardashian over a black Lamborghini as if ravishing her. Maybe Leibowitz intends it to echo West simulating intercourse with the naked Kardashian on his motorcycle in the popular “Bound 2” video. Uh-huh, Baby.
In his Vogue story, Bowles spends much time cosying up to the “telegenic pair.” When not indulging in plummy descriptive prose—he writes, “The dress is a fitting complement to Kim’s voluptuous movie-star beauty, with her flashing Ava Gardner looks and Sophia Loren figure”—he quotes them regularly. When talking about gussying up North in some of West’s paraphernalia, Kardashian says, “I was like, ‘What up, Daddy?'” About West’s early readying her for a television pilot with which he was involved, she says, “I was like, Oh, my God, he’s really funny, and he’s really cool.”
Reading Bowles, someone might think he’s letting Kardashian send herself up. He isn’t, not when in addition to the Gardner-Loren comparisons, he includes references to her “almost otherworldly beauty.”
More than anything, however, what crossed my mind when perusing the layout was what Wintour had in hers. With this issue she indicates that what’s uppermost in her concerns is selling copies. She knows the Kardashians are magazine-sales magnets. Just like you and me, she’s checked the supermarket racks. She sees how Kardashian and West, but mostly Kardashian and immediate family monopolize covers month in, month out.
But even as others estimate sales for the issue will reach and exceed 400,000, Wintour realizes that she has to preempt criticism for glorifying them Vogue-like. So in the banner headline, she sees to it that the words “their fashionable life” are inserted. She anoints them as fashionable, but will her subscribers believe it? At least one balked publicly. As HipHollywood reported, Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted, “I guess I’m canceling my Vogue subscription. Who is with me???”
Well……I guess I'm canceling my Vogue subscription. Who is with me???
— Sarah Michelle (@SarahMGellar) March 21, 2014
Gellar sent that out in response to photographer Nigel Barker, who defended Wintour in an interview, stating the editor knows what she’s doing. The whole idea is to be talked about (Vogue even has its “People Are Talking About” section), and, he said, people are talking about Vogue being back in vogue.
But is being talked about the sort of goal Wintour has in mind? What did she think of Kardashian’s talking about the Vogue experience on Late Night with Seth Meyers, when the recent mother reported that during one of the photo sessions North “peed” on West and “I had to get up and clean her off and clean him off.”
Setting aside the thought that West might have volunteered to do the wiping while Kardashian was otherwise engaged, the image is not coincident with the “surreal times” Vogue attributes to the couple. They’re more like very real (wet) times in the life of new parents.
Yes, if you want to sell magazines, being talked about is important, but is it all-important? Vogue is also about—or supposed to be about—the art of fashion. But this is not what a Kardashian-West cover suggests.
What it suggests is crass commercialism, and it’s a good guess that Wintour abhors the very notion of crassness in anything. Until the April issue of Vogue, anyone aware of Vogue, even if not a sometime reader or a non-reader, wouldn’t associate the monthly with anything blatantly crass. That’s to say, the odd item by a name designer might have something déclassé about it, but never mind.
From now on, however, Wintour’s priorities are apparent. Okay, why shouldn’t they be? She’s so valued at Condé Nast that she functions as artistic director of the entire concern. (Why not marketing director, too?) As such, it’s likely people will still clamor for an invite to this year’s up-coming May blast, although maybe some will sit it out. Not Kardashian and West, you surmise.
And when the two invite 200 of their closest friends to the wedding, perhaps at the Louvre or Versailles (this is what Kardashian tells Bowles she’d like), Wintour will be there, won’t she—possibly because, as she says in her April letter from the editor, Kardashian and West are now “those who define the culture at any given moment.”
But, hey, since Wintour states she sees Vogue’s mission, in addition to celebrating fashion, as defining the culture, what she might have done in the April Vogue is examine a culture currently defined by Kardashian and West. She doesn’t. Maybe that would have adversely affected sales. And then again by the May issue, the soon-to-be-marrieds may no longer define contemporary culture.
To quote Kardashian’s culture-defining tweet about getting the coveted Vogue cover, “O M GGGGGG!!!”
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 21, 2014